smile for your great-great-grandkids

It was just a simple observation overheard at the News-Times: “It looks like this picture for the obituary is a copy of their driver’s license – it has the seal of the state across it. I don’t think I can photoshop it out.”

I know, I know. You hate having your picture made. You can’t have one made now because today is a bad hair day. You won’t let one be taken because you have gained that weight. You can’t have one made later because you still haven’t lost that weight.

You hate being the center of attention, the feeling of someone looking at you, thinking about the best pose, the idea of someone staring at you as they snap a photo.

Stand still anyway, think a happy thought and let the photo be taken anyway. And then turn around and take pictures of your parents, your kids and your friends.

Every family has one or two people who take most of the photos. Thanks to that person in my dad’s family – an aunt – we have a series of photographs of him and his twin brother and their little sister growing up in the 1930s. But we have few, if any, photos of the photographer.

And therein lies the secondary problem. It is one that my daughter and I struggle against all the time. We take the pictures. We snap photos of children and adults, of events and non-events. But we rarely take pictures of ourselves. Occasionally my daughter hands me her camera and says, “take a picture of me.” I have tried to emulate her example.

If you are the photographer, don’t be modest. Every so often, hand the camera to someone else and ask them to take a picture of you with your significant other, your children, friends or just of you alone.

Don’t let your driver’s license be the only picture your family has to remember you.

I posted the comment about the obituary picture on Facebook the day I heard it.

One of my FB friends agreed, “This is a good admonition for all of us … . although the older I get, the better my college graduation photo is looking as an obituary picture, or maybe even when I still remembered what color hair was supposed to be.”

Another simply stated, “I haven’t let anyone take my picture in years.”

I encouraged that writer, “Most people like the way they looked five or 10 years ago. However, remember that picture has to be made today for it to be liked five or 10 years from now. Smile. Your family needs to have something from now. Pictures are not so much for us as they are for others. Share yourself. Give your grandkids a picture to help them remember. When my father passed, and we sorted pictures for his funeral, we did not have anything outstanding or fantastic, but we had pictures and that was what mattered.”

Another friend responded, “I have never thought about that! I guess because it seems like my family has a thing for cameras!” Fortunate the family that has a family photographer – or two or three.

My husband has always had a camera handy, which is a bit of an ironic twist considering that his grandmother came from an Amish home. The Amish do not allow anyone to photograph them. They do not own cameras. Not all their descendants join the faith. That made a family reunion a bit tricky.

He said, “we took a camera to the reunion, but we left it in the car.”

Just as he settled into the reunion, one of the Amish families pulled out a camera and suddenly photographic equipment appeared everywhere. He always laughs at the irony of that moment and treasures the pictures taken.

This summer some of the women from my dad’s side – cousins, sisters and aunts – met in Maine. I took along the black and white photos I had from my aunt’s wedding which my mother had taken. She studied them and observed, “Everyone in the back row is now gone.” Gone, but not forgotten, and she had time to recall that day and the people who came that day, thanks to that plain, simple box camera, the Kodak Hawkeye Brownie which my mother used for years.

Mom spoke highly of her Brownie. It did not have a zoom lens. It used a blue dot flash bulb. The photographer had to stand very still and not jerk when they pressed the grey exposure button. But do it right, stand at least four to six feet away and as Mom bragged, “it always takes the best pictures.”

The pictures would never have won a photo contest, but they are pictures that I still cherish and am happy to have.

(Joan Hershberger is a staff writer at the News-Times and author of “Twenty Gallons of Milk and Other Columns from the El Dorado News-Times.” Email her at



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